From the notebook of business editor Tim Rausch

Leading indicators in Augusta economy have been getting better

Not an April Fool’s gag: Economists are seeing some improvement in Augusta’s economy.

 

The index from Augusta State University has been up for four months straight. And it has been going up in an increasing rate.

 

And it has been going up in an increasing rate.

 

ASU finance professor Simon Medcalfe, in charge of the index, said it was rising at a 2 percent annual level in October, and now it is around 4 percent.

 

Keep it real quote: “It was rising at double digit figures back in 2010.”

 

So coming out of the recession, it was climbing fast, but now is climbing slow. But it also dropped fast going into the recession, about 15 to 18 percent per month.

 

“To see big improvements, I’d like to see the index get back up to those double digit annual growth rates ... that would indicate a strong economy. Right now, it is really quite slow,” Medcalfe said.

 

The ASU index is a leading indicator, which means it tracks things that change first in business cycle trends. In other words, it goes up prior to employment going up.

 

The index is up 4.3 percent from January 2011.

 

Similar trends have been seen on the national level.

 

BILLIONAIRES: In honor of the giant MegaMillions jackpot, which I would like to see climb to $1 billion, here’s a list of the billionaires in South Carolina and Georgia.

 

Forbes just released the latest breakdown of the richest people on the planet – there are more than 1,100 of them.

 

South Carolina just has one billionaire, Anita Zucker in Charleston, a 60-year-old widow who inherited her husband’s fortune in chemical manufacturing.

 

Georgia has seven billionaires, many of whom are instantly recognizable, such as Ted Turner and Arthur Blank. There’s S. Truett Cathy, the Chik-fil-A founder, on the list, along with Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus and Cox Communications family Anne Cox Chambers and Jim Kennedy.

 

The interesting one is Spanx founder Sara Blakely, whose product line sold so well after Oprah’s endorsement that she’s hit this elite tax bracket.

 

FIRST CITIZENS: There’s a new bank branch coming to downtown Edgefield. First Citizens is taking over the branch that Carolina First closed on Main Street. It opens April 23.

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